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Heroin keeps the Taliban strong

A poppy farm in Afghanistan. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Jihadism will continue to thrive as long as drug trafficking – “the blood that feeds it” – continues to thrive, says Caroline Fourest in the French magazine Marianne. It’s all about money. About 90% of the world’s heroin “and a significant part of its hashish” come from the Afghan steppes. Afghanistan has no access to the sea, so the goods are smuggled out via the coast of Pakistan, in the process lining the pockets of the generals who run the ISI, Pakistan’s secret service. From there the heroin flows mainly to a small, well-trained and heavily armed network of jihadist insurgents in Mozambique, before being distributed to a host of other terrorist networks.

Hamas, which welcomed the Taliban’s victory, is one of the beneficiaries. Few Afghans share the views of Hamas, or Isis, or indeed the Taliban, but many make a living from poppy farming. And despite the American presence over the past 20 years, no one has succeeded in convincing poppy farmers to grow potatoes instead. (Poppies bring in 20 times the revenue.) In some areas the farmers pretended to destroy a few hectares, but this simply pushed up prices and the traffic continued, all the while “allowing the Taliban’s war chest to grow”. To stop the Taliban, we need to cut off its finances. That means destroying drug trafficking at its source – hard to do, since the source is Afghanistan itself.